Volume Review: Actions Speak Louder Than Words

Game Name: Volume

Platform: Microsoft Windows, Mac, PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita

Developer: Mike Bithell Games

Publisher: Mike Bithell Games

Price: £14.99 or $19.99

I’ll be honest, I’ve never really be a fan of Stealth games, so I’m probably not the most qualified person to review one. In the few stealth games I have played, I’ve often sunk to abusing enemy AI and running straight past them like a headless chicken. So when I heard that Mike Bithell’s new game would focus on stealth and remaining undetected, I was instantly put off due to my previous experiences. Nevertheless, I bought it during a sale and for almost two years, it remained undisturbed in my Steam library. After neglecting Volume and the Stealth game genre as a whole for a long time, I’ve finally decided to give it another chance. I wasn’t expecting much from Mike’s previous game, Thomas Was Alone, but that only aided it in blowing me away. Is Volume the same? Can it surpass my stealth game bias? Let’s find out!

In Volume, you play the role of Robert Locksley, a boy seeking to take down a totalitarian government by streaming himself sneaking through simulations of various buildings and teaching people how to steal its contents without being detected. The way he does this is by using a device called the ‘Volume’ which has its own AI programmed to help Rob called Alan. Most of the targets Rob tries to take down are only given a small description and portrait but the game’s main villain: Gisborne, makes his presence much more apparent through a few cutscenes. Rob is a modern day representation of Robin Hood, stealing from the rich to give to the poor, and several other characters such as Tuck(Friar Tuck) and Jo Little(Little John) are mentioned but never really fleshed out as much as Rob. If you’ve never played Mike’s previous game, Thomas Was Alone, then you’re in for a treat as the voice acting is absolutely masterful and really makes the characters feel grounded and real; an achievement made even more impressive by the fact that some of them aren’t all that solid such as Alan, the AI. Danny Wallace in particular gives an excellent performance.

Mike Bithell’s strong point has always been first-rate storytelling and it certainly shows in his latest game. I grew attached to Rob and Alan throughout the course of the game and I was certainly interested to see where the game’s story went, especially considering the Prologue cutscene. Unfortunately, while the story is investing, the way it is executed is sub-par to say the least. Most of the story is communicated through voiced dialogue at the beginning of certain levels and it’s quite intrusive. Trying to listen to what the characters are saying and sneaking through a large building at the same time is not easy. To be honest, I simply started waiting around at the start of the level for the dialogue to finish before moving on. Apart from that, for the most part the world’s lore is brought to light in a disjointed and disorganised way through text documents dotted around each level. In total, the game only has three or four fully-fledged cutscenes and though beautiful, I found they were quite stilted despite the rest of the game running smoothly on my computer.

Gameplay in Volume is straightforward and satisfying. You can crouch behind walls to hide and move past enemies, hide in lockers and trapdoors and whistle to make an enemy move to a certain point. Various gadgets are thrown into the mix to help you solve certain challenges though  very few levels have more than one gadget. Stealth games generally fall into two types: A part-sandbox stealth game where you’re given an assortment of gadgets and are left to find your own way to the objective and a more streamlined and linear stealth game where there’s only really one solution to a level. Volume is most certainly the latter. Not that I mind. I suck at stealth games so having it simplified certainly made it less frustrating for me but fans of the latter should look elsewhere to get their stealth fix.

More enemies are introduced throughout the course of the game such as Rogues who can see all around them in a circle and Knights who only have a melee attack, but are fast and have a massive line of sight. While the AI is smart for the most part, it does have it’s stupid moments(I’m looking at you Archer). It’s particularly apparent, yet also funny when you can keep going round and round a pillar to completely shake off enemies who walk too slow to keep up with you. The game also utilises Steam Workshop and a level editor to allow players to create their own levels for a little extra replayability. As well as this, there are twenty four achievements though most of them boil down to completing a certain amount of the story or using a certain gadget x amount of times. By the end of the one hundred level campaign, I had all but four of the achievements, and it only took me another hour of playing to get them. Unfortunately, you can only get the achievements in the core levels meaning you can’t work towards them in user-made levels and instead are forced to replay the campaign levels.

All in all, it took me about seven hours to complete the main campaign and another hour to 100% it. Whether the amount of content is worth the £14.99 price tag is depends on whether you’re interested in the Steam Workshop levels. Despite its debatable price tag, the 7+ hours you play will be enjoyable and accompanied by some beautiful graphics and some excellent music. I personally didn’t tire of the gameplay but I’ve heard of some people becoming bored due to its repetitiveness. For this reason, I think Volume is best enjoyed in short bursts as I played it, rather than slogging through it all in one session. Mike Bithell is a skilled game designer, and Volume only further proves that point.

Pros: 

  • Decent Campaign Length(around seven hours)
  • Amazing soundtrack
  • Unique, stunning graphics
  • Steam Workshop content and level creator
  • Rewarding, fun gameplay
  • Phenomenal voice acting
  • Great story
  • Meticulously designed levels

Cons:

  • £14.99 is a bit expensive for what’s on offer
  • Only really one solution to every level
  • Story and lore is mostly told through text
  • AI can be a bit stupid sometimes
  • Gameplay can be repetitive
  • Not much replayability

Verdict: 7.5/10

Buy the game here: http://store.steampowered.com/app/365770/Volume/

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